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Thursday
June

9

2005
12:14 AM



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03-chicken satay.jpg

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Eating in Maui Part II - Tasted on June 1, 2005 (Continued from the previous post.) I really was prepared to accept pineapple as my one positive food experience on the island (and a damn good one at that) when we got hungry standing in line to see Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Yes, we were in Maui, but Steve, Kira, and Debbie hadn't seen the movie so we hauled out to some strip mall near the airport and bought matinee tickets to see the latest (and final?) Star Wars. And Debbie of course was hungry. She needed something quick. There was a row of seemingly crappy little non-descript ethnic restaurants in this outdoor mall. One of them was Thailand Cuisine II. Just the kind of place you'd expect to serve Thai food bordering on fast food. The Chinese place next to them was serving food from troughs under heat lamps. I didn't have high expectations. But what we ate that day, and then again two days later when we went back for a proper lunch, was pretty damn good Thai food.

What got our attention was the satay. We started off with one of each variety they offered - chicken, beef, and shrimp. The chicken was thick and juicy, with slight grill marks on the sides and incredibly buttery and savory. The beef was cut slightly thinner, had the same buttery quality, and also had this incredible subtle curry-like flavor. The shrimp was almost indescribable. Think shrimp-textured butter on a stick formed in the shape of shrimps. Everything was super delicious.

We got the fresh rolls (called Fresh Summer Rolls on the menu). I typically think of these as Vietnamese but I honestly don't know their origin. And given that these were light, tight, and fresh (hmmm...) with a nice hot and sour sauce I didn't care. We also dug into the Beef Salad (Yum Nuer) which was super spicy, robust, and had the unmistakable evidence of fish sauce. Yummy, The hot and cold contrast between the beef and vegetables was excellent as well.

The Chicken Larb was quite good as well. A very simple plate of ground chicken with cabbage pieces serving as scoops for the chicken. The ground chicken was super savory and juicy. The Thai Red Duck Curry was also a relatively simple dish but the contrast  between the creamy smooth coconut curry and the extra crispy skin on the duck, not to mention the meaty duck pieces, was really quite enjoyable. The portion was small in a good way and the dish was just a pleasure to eat. But all the dishes were a pleasure to eat. A simple pleasure. The Pad Thai (we got ours with shrimp) was no exception. There was nothing unique about it, but it was well done.

I know it's unfair of me to make judgments about an entire island's food options based on a few days' visit, and eating it a handful of places most of which were in tourist central. But my disappointment is less about Maui in particular (and to be clear, there's obviously hope as the tiny Thai place we stumbled into in a strip mall was quite delicious) and more about my own personal inability to pick good places to eat blind. I suppose of course, that's why this site exists in the first place, to try and cut through the standard sea of recommendations and just find the good stuff. And if you gave me a recommendation before I went and I didn't take you up on it, please accept my apologies. (I've heard disappointment from at least two people on this front.) But I admit that I was inundated with recommendations and my filter is simply not very good.

I'm embarassed that it's taken me so long to learn this lesson on more than an intellectual level, but I promise, from now on I take recommendations from people I know and eat with, not strangers, big websites (and some small ones), I won't be swayed by what "lots of people are saying". And most importantly if we can't find anything, we will just follow the locals and eat where they eat.

 

     
     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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